itib THE GAY GENIUS
next decades as the robbers' lair celebrated in the romance All Men
Are Brothers. The city lay on a river, surrounded by two high moun-
tains on the south, with deep, rapid currents flowing past the city below.
It produced very fine granite, iron, and coal, which were exploited
in Su Tungpo's days. Consequently the place was also famous for its
knives and swords. He was delighted with the natural scenery an?
the variety of fish and crabs available, and called it a good place for a
On August 21, three months after his arrival, a big flood reached
Suchow. Wang Anshih had previously tried to dredge the Yellow
River; but after spending over half a million dollars he had failed,
and the chief engineer had committed suicide. The Yellow River now
broke out eastward at a point some fifty miles north of Suchow and
began to spread, flooding several hundred square miles. When the
good reached the city, it was held back by the tall mountains south ofe
the city; and the water rose higher and higher, until in September it
reached 28.9 Chinese feet. At one time the level of the water was
higher than the city streets. Su Tungpo plunged into the work of
saving the city. For weeks he did not go home, but stayed in a shack
on top of the city wall supervising the strengthening of the outer wall.
Well-to-do families were fleeing from the city, and Su Tungpo stopped
them at the gate, begging them to remain for fear of starting a panic.
"I am going to stay, so you had better, too," he said to them, and
forced them back. This is not the place to go into Su Tungpo's archi-
tectural and engineering genius, but let it be said that he always worked
with exact figures in all his engineering projects. While the swirling1
waters were threatening to overrun the south-eastern walls of the outer
city, he was strengthening the base and increasing the height of the
walls. The defence works that were thrown up against the flood were
9,840 feet long, 10 feet high, and 20 feet wide. For this he needed
thousands of workmen. Splashing about in the mud, he went straight
to the army camp and spoke to the commander. As this was the so-
called Palace Army, under the direct control of the Emperor, he asked
for their cooperation. The officers gladly responded, and said: "Since
Your Honour has come out personally to supervise the work, certainly
we should do our part." Meanwhile, preparations were made in the
north to turn the water into an old abandoned course of the Yellov^
River, which had already changed its route many times in history.
The waters threatened the city for forty-five days, but on the fifth of
October the flood began to subside as the river found its old course
and drained eastward towards the sea near Haichow.
The people were overjoyed and grateful for the saving of the city.
But dissatisfied with the temporary dams, Su Tungpo sent a letter with
detailed figures to the court, asking for money to build a stone city